Sean Walkinshaw and MRS GT-Racing team-mate Craig Dolby posted two more points scoring finishes during the latest instalment of Blancpain Sprint Series action at Zolder in Belgium over the weekend, 6th/7th June, to retain ninth position in the championship standings.
Delivering a best result of sixth place during the Qualification Race on Saturday afternoon, which ended in particularly dramatic fashion for 21-year-old Sean after contact from a rival at the final corner, he and Dolby went on to end Sunday’s Main Race in 10th position.
Making it four Sprint Series points finishes in succession, the Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 pairing also helped to hoist MRS GT-racing up into the top six in the team standings although Chipping Norton based Sean was somewhat disappointed not to have taken away more from his Zolder debut.
“We definitely should have scored more points this weekend, the car was quick enough to be in the top five”, commented the Brussels-born racer, “There were some things in our control but others which happened in the races we couldn’t do much about. It’s a bit disappointing not to come away from Zolder with more, but at least we did take some points away and we were competitive again.”
Temperatures during practice on Friday, 5th June, were absolutely scorching with thermometers hitting a high of 37 degrees. Lapping fourth fastest in session one, then focusing on set-up work in session two, the duo headed into the cooler qualifying period on Saturday morning feeling positive.
Dolby took the opening stint for the first one-hour encounter and immediately had to have his wits about him, smartly avoiding a tangle yards from the grid to climb into the top 10 and then rising into seventh during an impressive first lap. Taking sixth position on lap four, Dolby then chipped away at the advantage held by Marko Asmer before the gap plateaued at two seconds.
Pitting to hand over the Nissan to Sean from sixth place with just over 30 minutes to go, when the order settled down following the mandatory stops the MRS GT-Racing car maintained its top six placing. During the latter stages, the BMW of Caca Bueno started to reel in the Nissan and into the final lap Sean’s lead was just 0.2 seconds.
Driving impressively to keep the nimble BMW at bay under huge pressure, into the final chicane Sean came under attack into the left-right kink as he held the inside line. As Bueno leant on the Nissan, it almost forced a spin for Sean but he controlled the car well and during a dramatic side-by-side drag to the line he was able to hold onto sixth by just 0.068 seconds.
“I had 260 degrees of lock on when the BMW hit me”, explained the Briton, “Fortunately, as he kept turning me round, it put the car back into a pretty straight line and I kept my foot on the throttle so I was able to get the run to the line.”
Sean took the opening stint of the Main Race on Sunday but hopes of a good start to the contest didn’t last long when a series of small occurrences badly delayed him. With the Audi ahead getting a sluggish getaway, Sean instantly lost momentum off the start and a spinning car in front of the pair at the first corner then resulted in a further delay.
After then being pushed onto the grass, the Nissan racer was down to 10th place but determined to try and recover back up the order. As much as Sean tried to make inroads, he had to protect his line at all times with a rapid Audi behind waiting to pounce and so when the pit-stops started to be taken at mid-distance he still held 10th position.
Dolby rejoined the track in 13th position after the driver change and when all of the mandatory stops had played out, he was back in the top 10 where he remained during an uneventful second half of the race.
“Warm-up before Sunday’s race went well, we tried something on the car which worked so we had high hopes”, reflected Sean, “The Audi in front of me got a bad start though, then a Ferrari spun so he braked hard, and I had to brake hard, and then a Bentley put me on the grass. After that, we just stayed in 10th all the way through. It was a hard race, but at least we managed to get a point.”